Sunday, January 27, 2013

An Unexpected Morning ...

As I was idly flipping through news stories the other day I came upon this one which appears to show that, once again, the French élite

a) do not get it, whatever it is, and
b) are intent in shooting themselves in the foot.

Pissed off at the fact that most large multi-nationals pay sod-all corporation tax (never mind that the board would be failing in its fiduciary duties to shareholders if it arranged matters so that it paid more than necessary), four cabinet ministers (amongst their number, in a superb but doubtless unintentional flight of irony, the minister for Small/Medium Business and Innovation) commissioned a report to suggest things that might correct this obviously unpalatable situation.

The authors apparently wasted no time in repairing to le Bar du Centre and inhaling a couple of litres before setting to work, for a main idea of the report is that companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google should pay French taxes on the data they collect on their French users, the amount due to be calculated on, amongst other things, the potential monetary value of said data.

The justification seems to be that the photos, blogs and search histories compiled by the companies constitute the result of "work" performed for the companies by the (sadly) unpaid users of their services, and that the companies in question profit unfairly from this work. Basically, they would like Google to pay payroll tax on the presumed value of Blogger posts, and photos of cats in compromising positions. (Personally I reckon they're sitting on a little gold-mine with me, but I digress.)

One of my teachers in the way-back whenever used to say, diplomatically, that such concepts were "interesting" - by which he meant, of course, "rubbish" - but you have to hand it to French intellectuals: just when you think they've run out of steam they find a new way of making you split your sides with laughter. And the fact that they're not actually trying to be humorous makes it even funnier.

Although I have to admit that that over-rated egoistic pompous windbag Sartre never made me laugh. Fume, yes, and want to strangle small animals, I admit, but never once have I wished even to giggle on confronting the turgid sod.

And there's another thing: as one will, I had occasion to cart Stacey off to A&E at some ungodly hour this morning (combination of a really bad case of the 'flu and her tachycardia: never, even after a marathon session with Jeremy watching "Walking Dead", have I seen someone so grey), and although I think I should, I do not feel a better man for it.

This is due to the Benny Hill syndrome, wherein it is universally acknowledged that any man turning up with a woman at some public facility is assumed to be her husband, with dubiously hilarious results.

I suppose I got off lightly, because it wasn't until she actually got released after blood tests and godnose what else that I was publicly upbraided by the head nurse (a rather attractive brunette by the way, maybe I should have considered a career in medicine) who loudly wondered how I could not have seen that she was sick and not eating, and that I should really pull my act together and make sure she was kept warm and properly fed. With the underlying threat of a visit from social services if I didn't improve.

I tried - feebly - to protest that it wasn't really my fault but no-one was listening and anyway I felt so guilty that I was starting to believe that maybe I was some sort of inhumane brute. So that's the last time I do a favour for anyone.

Also, as there seems to be some rule or ancient charter or something that says that in a hospital you absolutely have to hang around for three hours or so whilst machines go ping! and, very busily, nothing happens apart from a growing feeling of tedium which makes you start to look for repeating patterns in the lino flooring just for something to do in between the odd apparition of a nurse just checking that no-one has actually died yet, nor seems likely to do so, I was terminally bored and kind of late to the market.

On the bright side, that did mean I was still around when Bryan made himself available to buy me that drink he owed me, for solving a little problem he had with a jquery script on the website for his language school.

I swear to god, he could have done it himself with five minutes busy googling and a few notions of arcane language syntax (I must admit I have an advantage on him there, having being exposed to any number of oddball computer languages over the years, even SNOBOL from the Griswold family, and I can recognise something that looks like a regular expression when I see it and then work back from that) but still, it would have been better had he just followed my instructions to the letter.

I mean, I explicitly said that he needed to change this line here, and add this code after the existing code, so what did he do? Stuck the new code in before the existing code, that's what. And of course that didn't work. What? Because the event handlers weren't hooked up before he triggered the onclick event, that's why.

Whatever, I was still feeling quite pleased with myself because, completely on the off-chance, I'd wandered into Franprix and found some golden syrup. And some Roses Lime Marmelade, which is an added bonus.

Franprix, should you be wondering, is kind of like Felix Potin used to be back in the day, when Ian would go off to one to get a couple of six-franc bottles of white wine/floor-cleaner (and in reality they were half that price, 'cos you got three francs back when you took the empty bottle back, which is an inducement to alcoholism if you ask me) and some chalky round thing with aspirations to Camembert: smallish city-centre supermarkets.

This particular one was constructed inside an old cinema, and I guess to get the building permit they had to promise to keep the old Art Deco stained glass, which was the actual reason I went in there. Sadly, with the big zoom on the camera rather than the 35mm but whatever, I can always go back another time.

Anyway, the point is that as I was moving around trying to get as decent a shot as possible, I literally stumbled on their Alimentation du Monde section and found row upon row of golden syrup and diverse jams and marmelades and Lea & Perrins and green curry paste and peanut butter, all at about half the price of Carrefour, when Carrefour actually has any in stock.

So I grabbed a couple of tins and took them back with me to the Beer Tree, and whilst I was waiting for Bryan to turn up I made them taste it.

The general consensus was that it wasn't half bad, so I'm sure I've left a couple of ideas bubbling around in the cook's mind. (Which reminds me, Jerry has a second interview on Tuesday at a restaurant in Montmelian. Would be rather good if he gets that job.)

Before I go, an edifying thought ... some of you may remember crabs from your dissolute past: it seems that our old friend the pubic louse is becoming an endangered species, due to the increasingly rapid deforestation of its native habitat. And for once, I think you'd be hard put to it to prove that this itself is a result of global warming

Monday, January 21, 2013

Irritated By Electronics, Again ...

So I spent some of a dissolute morning last Saturday huddling in the warmth of the Café de Paris with Bryan and Beckham, trying to help her with ideas for that magnum opus of hers, "300,000 Reasons Why I Hate The French". She seems to have writer's block. But what with the hags that queue-jump at the boulangerie, elderly people who get on the bus and fumble for ten minutes looking for change whilst blocking you, with a cunningly-placed shopping caddy, from going past because they have their beady eyes on the one empty seat, and jolly people at the market who congregate in the aisles, I flatter myself that we managed to give her some good material to work with.

Also, Intermarché still had their special on pork, so I now have a 7-kg slab of poitrine de porc fraîche sitting staring at me on the kitchen table, waiting for me to cut it up and salt it and stick it into zip-lock bags to go into the down-below fridge for ten days, before being washed and brushed with maple syrup and hung up to dry. And maybe this time I actually will get around to hot-smoking some of it.

May I just say that a bit of pig like that is going to make quite a bit of bacon? We might even have some to give to the poor boys, aka Mad Karen and her two locusts.

In other news, I see that SC is all gloaty about how people get to his blog. I has people looking for "blow jobbi cape de agde", which is so much classier.

And Margo has found a new blog, which has become her friend. Its title? "Self-Lubricating". Calm down, people, not what you think, it's all about sewing machines. Probably a good thing it wasn't called "The Self-Lubricating Reciprocating Engine" (great name for a rock band, by the way, or a patent application) for otherwise I would probably have had to go lie down for some time, until the urges passed.

Purely out of interest for your continuing edification, I can report that on at least one German train (a Grizzly 102, if you can believe the notice, currently parked at St Pierre) it is marked that it is, and I quote, "Interdit de lever les boggies sans les élingues". No, I have no idea what that could mean either, and I can't be arsed googling it.

At the moment, as you lot bask in what I gather is an unusually warm summer, we are "enjoying" a sudden cold snap, with the temperature the other morning a brisk -12° and more snow. Fine frikkin powder, just what I loves. And on top of that the previous falls had pretty much melted and then - of course - frozen, so all that lovely powdery white goodness is sitting atop a layer of ice. Don't need no stinking snow tyres, need bloody crampons on my shoes.

Whatever, Margo had to head off early somewhere around Geneva on Saturday moaning to give a class, so I reckoned I might as well get myself dropped off at Chambéry, whip round the market and then get up to Jacques' place some time later to borrow the Dacia for Sunday. May I just say that the market at 8am is quite a different thing? It's a damn sight darker, for one thing. Half the stall-holders are still setting up, others - who know me - hailed me and made pointed remarks about being unaccustomed to seeing me about at such a time. Snarky bastards. Still, made for a record trip around.

Anyway, I headed off to Nîmes to get the first-born son and his scooter, with only a pack of cigars and the GPS From Hell to accompany me. Now don't get me wrong, GPS systems are a gift from god and a great boon to the directionally-challenged, but they do have their problems.

Margo's little Mappy, for instance, needs its touchscreen recalibrating from time to time: otherwise, the button you think you're pressing is not that one at all, it's the one above - or below. Which can be, depending on the list of "Recent Destinations" you have in there, rather embarrassing.

And it was cheap, which means it wasn't really state of the art even at the time she bought it, but oh my god it is such an under-powered piece of shite. Depending on how it feels at the time it can take a couple of seconds for it to realise that you've actually pressed a key, and the worse, I assure you, is when the crap OS that is Windows CE sees the key, flashes the button to show that it's seen the key, and the GPS application does not get, or so does not want to know about, the key.

Which can lead you to hit the Cancel button furiously about five times in a row, and then all of a sudden you find yourself in a strange menu where you never wanted to be, wondering what the hell is going on and why you didn't just print out the driving instructions from Google or something.

And don't get me on to the topic of the user interface, which is, if not actively user-hostile, at least not intuitive. So you're trying to type in your destination, and at the top of the screen is a line for you to type in the name of the town, and just next to that is a pretty little flag which, if you have your glasses on and won Mastermind three years running for knowing all the flags of Europe, shows you which country you're looking for.

In my particular case, looking for Nîmes, I eventually noticed that this was an Italian flag - not of much use to me - so I tapped on it. When nothing happened, I tapped it again. Then, I have to admit, I stabbed at it. Viciously. Then again - to such good effect that the damn thing fell out of its holder and on to the floor of the car, where I took advantage of the occasion to tread on it, and then temporarily lost the bloody stylus.

Having got all that back, recovered the stylus and licked the blood off my palm (because of course the thing fought back) I finally discovered that you need to tap on the text field where it wants you to type in "": doing that will bring up a list of flags and their associated shithole countries. And as the touchscreen is still not recalibrated when you tap on one you'll find that you seem to have asked for Belgium which is not the case, but I digress. Whatever, I put it to you that this is not immediately self-evident.

That being resolved and the name of the town - in the country that actually interests you - having been typed and, reluctantly, accepted, I can only say that you should be neither pedantic nor precise. I was trying to get to rue des Compagnons, typed that it, and it found me a match: I was half-way down, around Orange, when I reflected that it had picked the town of Marguerittes, some 20km from Nîmes, as my destination.

I needed something to eat anyway (more on that later) so I stopped and brow-beat the thing. Where I really wanted to get to was in fact (it seems) le chemin des Compagnons: my mistake was in not just typing Compagnons, and seeing what that got me. I'll remember, next time. Assuming it doesn't get accidentally broken before then. Trodden underfoot.

Also, the thing seems to be vaguely related to the Tardis, in that it will sporadically, and for no apparent reason, assume that the car has jumped 20m to the left and is now travelling at a totally unreasonable speed on a departmentale which happens to parallel the autoroute at that point. So it is furiously recalculating to try to get you back on to the autoroute, which usually involves doing a 180° and getting back on either at the on-ramp 10km back or by jumping off an overhead bridge, until normal service is resumed. I can see how accidents could happen.

I said I was hungry, so after bludgeoning the damn thing I went off in search of food. I have learned that the actual cooked meals on the autoroute are pretty crap (on the other hand, if you get off you could do worse than search for a Buffalo Grill or Courte-Paille: the food may not be imaginative but it is certainly copious and, in my experience, excellent) so I wasn't going to bother with that and didn't have the time anyway and, in the usual triumph of hope over experience, bought a couple of sandwiches. Don't ask. The bread was moist - I will not say "slimy" - and the contents were as vile as you might expect.

So let that be a lesson to you: before getting on to the autoroute, go off to a decent boulangerie and get a baguette, some ham at the nearby charcuterie, and pack some butter, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs. And a bottle of wine (in moderation, of course). You will eat a lot better, believe me.

Whatever, made it - more by good luck than good management - down to the maison des Compagnons and, with the help of one of his friends, wrestled Jeremy's scooter into the back of Jacques' little Dacia. And from there, we went off to the motel where he stayed.

Now some buildings decay into their surroundings with age: this one was doing it, even as I watched, just from shoddy construction and poor materials. It had had dreams of grandeur in its youth, I think, and a long circular drive (once, perhaps, gravelled but now mainly mud-pits) lead past a line of what looked like XXL toilet stalls huddled around a dioxin dump, where the toxic fallout from the pine leaves had killed any ideas the grass might ever have had.

Jerry's room had a door apparently made from cardboard, and a single shonky window that you could open (could probably only open, if the truth be told) with a teaspoon. From inside, or out. Unprepossessing, is one of those words that fair leap to mind on such an occasion.

Not really Hotel California, I'm afraid.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dock Green, Revisited ...

Well, mind how you go now sir. No sir, that was definitely not police brutality. Your son was, sir, wearing bum-crack trousers and a hoodie - we have at least 73 little old ladies, one of whom courageously nearly broke her lead-weighted cane as she brought it whistling down across his knees to prevent him committing any further crimes - to testify to that, and that is aggression in anyone's book, sir.

Quite frankly sir, he's lucky to have escaped as lightly as he has, and it is a wonder to me that with two broken patellas he was able to put up sufficient resistance to justify Sgt Amayonadha's (sorry sir, that was her name, not a sneeze, we're multi-culturally violent and hardly sexist at all here you know, and proud of it) having to break his arm for resisting arrest and sartorial laxity, but there you go sir, one never knows and with luck the judge will be lenient with him, it being a first offense as far as we know and all.

Although I'm sure we could find prior form, if you'd prefer that? Just asking, some do, sir. Children are not everyone's cuppa, in my experience.

And by the way sir, when you do get to see him, if it's not too late, do tell him not to bend over should he drop the soap in the showers, there are some people sir, as might take that as an invitation. If you know what I mean, sir. And sir, if you could persuade your wife to stop snivelling, before I feel obliged to backhand her for notorious loitering? Thank you sir, much obliged to you. Now where was it exactly that you lived, sir? Just asking squire, wouldn't want to see you in any trouble now, would we? Just watch it, OK? God, I hate accountants.

Fortunately, TV has evolved since the 80s. Instead of watching bumbling coppers we now have the dubious pleasure of watching "The Transporter", loosely based on the pointless movies of the same name. Mindless violence, gratuitous shots of someone's foot toying with the clutch pedal (and why does he even bother, the car can do it better and faster than he can), and no pretense of character development. At least you get what it says on the tin.

OK, so I mentioned Angela del Moro, courtesan, once, some time ago, trying to bring a bit of kulcha to this thing, and what do I get for thanks? About everyone on the planet who can't afford to buy a copy of Penthouse (for the articles, you understand) looking for pictures of some sixteenth century bint in the nude (probably far too fat for current tastes, incidentally) and passing it off as historical research, should their mothers ask what they're doing down in the basement. What with that, and "obsessed vibrators", it's enough to make one wonder.

And one other thing, whilst I think of it (before it leaves my mind, more to the point, being as I've just got off the phone with the buggers): can I say that I really, really hate finding myself in the position of knowing more than the "tech support" person at the other end of the line?

OK, I do not expect them to be geniuses, but I would like to think that they had access to a large online database and some basic knowledge of the products they're supposedly supporting. Our case: we, for our sins, have a France Telecom Livebox as our link to the world: it is, not unsurprisingly, plugged into the phone line and the phone, in its turn, is plugged into the box. Like that, the box routes incoming voice calls on the 04 number of the fixed line to the phone, and also gives us a VOIP line with a 09 number.

So a week or so ago, we sort of noticed (no debt collectors calling up, you get to miss that) that incoming calls to the 04 number weren't getting through: when you called, you heard the ring tone, but on our phone - total silence. So finally, I rang France Telecom, and it was already a minor victory when, at 7pm, someone I suspect of probably being a certifiable human being actually answered.

At which point, very gratefully, I explained my problem. So he told me that it was completely normal, I needed two phones, one plugged into the phone line for the 04 number and the other into the box, for the 09 number. I patiently explained that this was not in fact the case. "But Sir", said he, "you have two phone numbers, of course you must have two phones."

"Sadly, no", I replied, very patiently, "I have but one, being a simple soul, and poor, and it is plugged into the Livebox as god intended. From which it gets two numbers." "Alas", quoth he, "it is not normal. Two numbers, two phones."

"I AM ONLY DOING WHAT IT SAYS ON THE FRIKKIN BOX!" I said, calmly. The meds were definitely cutting in by now. "Also, it has been working quite happily like that for some time now, and the only reason I am calling you is that it is no longer doing so. Do you have a problem with that?"

Well yes, he did, because apparently it should not have worked, according to him. So I had fiddled with it, or changed my contract, or something. Had my box been replaced recently? ("Yes. Three times.", I assured him.)

And I should still have had two phones, because otherwise it was magical. I guess. Finally we settled on rebooting the box - again - and lo!, it worked. What a bummer. I would have preferred not to have given him the satisfaction.

The next day I got an e-mail from France Telecom, asking me for my feedback on the quality of their service, and exactly how would I rate it on a scale of 0-9 for politeness, efficiency, and technical aptitude. I am still unsure as to exactly how I should reply.

For starters, the simple numerical scale seems rather unimaginative. Having it go from "runny gnat's fart" through "duck with gastroenteritis" all the way to a full-blown "enraged sperm whale with diarrhoea" would, I feel, fit better with the actual user experience.

And another thing, miraculous multiplication. Not that we have very many pieces of the True Cross around this place (the theory being that this simple postulate would explain the fact that the sum total of bits of crucifixes - crucifii? -  added up to about 923 ha of oak forest, or 5037 adult male African elephants, which was not really believable even back in the Middle Ages) but we do have Tupperware.

So if you're like us, you may have noticed that whatever you do, even if you stick those plastic tubs in a cupboard and never, ever, touch them, when the time comes to get one out and actually use it there is no lid. Well, more to the point, after counting them I can say that there are, in fact, 52 plastic Tupperware lids in our pantry. There are about 57 plastic Tupperware tubs (I'm not sure of the exact number, got bored and besides they were moving around too rapidly).

Now two of the lids seem to match a tub, more or less - the odd thing is, it's never the same tub, twice in a row. Something is going on here, doubtless quantum, but it's kind of getting up my nose. All I want to do is stick some leftover tinned mushrooms in the bloody thing, for god's sake. Is that too much to ask?

In other news, we are to be reunited with our first-born son. His time in Nîmes did not go swimmingly - having his PC, then his passport and phone charger, nicked did not help - and feeling that he was learning nothing on the job (which has ended anyway) and not being able to find another one, it seems best that he comes back. Bit of a bugger really, we were quite enjoying being childless, I shall have to dress to go down and get the coffee now.

Must admit also that we're not too impressed with the organisational abilities of les compagnons du devoir: a phrase involving the words "piss-up" and "brewery" does rather come to mind.

What the hell, chalk it up to experience.

Anyway, those potatoes baking in the oven are not going to stuff themselves with some chopped smoked salmon and cream and herbs, maybe an egg, and some cheese and paprika on top, so I guess I'd better get on to that at this point. Mind how you go. Remember, we know where you live now.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Back To The Slaughterhouse ...

So, how was your New Year's Eve? Ours was kinda quiet, as was our Christmas: headed over to Stacey's in the evening for some eating and drinking (very restrained in my case, for I was driving) and talking. I'd whipped past earlier in  the day with a rolled rôti d'echine de porc, slapped it in a cast-iron cocotte on a bed of garlic, sloshed some white wine over, salted it and covered it with tin-foil, and left very precise (sort of) instructions as to its cooking.
Namely, into the oven at 210° for about forty minutes, then another three hours at 150°, and do NOT remove the tinfoil if you value your life. So when we turned up it was about ripe, and all that was needed was to reduce the juices, try to slice the thing (not easy, had a tendency to fall apart - hardly surprising really, under the circumstances) and arrange the bits back in the dish with some fried caramelised apple rings on top.

Whilst I got the pastry ready for a little apple crisp for dessert, can't beat it. And everyone knows that there's only Good Cholesterol in butter.

Preceded by some excellent foie gras with pain aux figues, and accompanied by some more red cabbage coleslaw, that made a pretty good meal. I do so love that cut of pork, just the right amount of fat all through it so that the meat stays soft and tender virtually no matter what you do to it. (OK, warped minds could probably find some way to make it inedible, maybe by boiling it in mustard for 24 hours and garnishing it with cigarette butts, but my point is that you would really have to make a considerable effort to ruin it.)
And then having a jarret de porc sitting around, as one will, I'd stuck that into a Temuka cocotte (wedding present, thanks to some friends of long ago but godnose which ones, still have it anyway) with honey and soy sauce and some red wine and strange-taste vinegar (that's Chinese sweetened black vinegar, if you really want to know: been wondering exactly what to do with it for a while now) and a bit of star anis, and put the whole lot, covered, into the woodburner before we left. I don't think that was a mistake, I could be wrong ...

Seven hours later ... I really should have been around, I guess, to take the lid off at some point because I'd kind of hoped that the skin would come out lacquered but sadly that was not to be: it was indeed a beautiful deep rich golden brown but with the moisture and that long slow cooking all the collagen or whatever it is that holds the stuff together had just melted out and into the cooking stock, so Margo was deprived of crackling.

Still, in more summery weather the meat would have been wonderful as part of a cold buffet, or chopped finely and rolled up in a lettuce leaf with chopped mint and whatever else took your fancy, but as luck would have it we decided to use it in a rice stir-fry, and pretty good it was too. The only problem is that I am now left with a pot full of wonderfully aromatic, thick dark cooking liquor, so I suppose I shall just have to go out and buy another jarret ...

Pity the poor pig, by the way. Not only do we see them hobbling around on little crutches or, even worse, with their forequarters supported on little wheeled trolleys due to some bastard removing the forelegs (a jarret, incidentally, is no more than a ham hock) but at this moment there must be about fifty of them, neatly cut into bits and packaged, slumbering away in the refrigerated bins at Carrefour. 

Must be la semaine du cochon or something: I drew the line at getting a head and trotters (for Margo would, I suspect, refuse point-blank to eat a head-cheese) but I did pick up some spare ribs (which are going to get braised slowly and then grilled some time soon), a kilo or so of poitrine which is even now starting on the road to apotheosis and bacon-hood in salt and brown sugar and juniper berries, and yet another hock which is currently in that left-over stock and slowly cooking.

Which means, I suppose, that when that's done I shall have even more cooking stock sitting around, and shall perhaps have to do a whole ham next time ... nothing but problems when you start cooking.

Whatever, if these are the worst of my problems I shall count myself lucky. I still have to work out what to do with the blettes I picked up at the market this morning: maybe slice them, fry them with onion and bacon and chèvre, then put them atop half a pita bread along with some chopped tomato and a bit of cream and an egg, then back into the oven?

Or perhaps I could do more or less the same thing only instead of pita I could bake some potatoes until the skin is really crispy, scoop out the fluffy insides (have to think of something to do with that, couldn't really use it for the same meal I guess) and then carry on as above.

Plus, due to an excess of enthusiasm some time ago we ended up with some teeny porcelain cocottes which have been sitting in a cupboard ever since, which seems a bit unfair: we also, entirely coincidentally, have a popsicle lobster in the freezer. (I went out and did a stock-take the other day, looking for some suet, that's how I know. We also have some pork chops and a couple of pork roasts that really need using up some time, a banana cake and buckets of raspberries, but these are issues which will be dealt with at some later point.)

So anyway, I'm thinking that maybe I should just thaw that sucker out, cut it in half and crack the claws (I hate that bit, it always spits resentfully at me and I always seem to have a clean shirt on, you'd think I'd have learned by now) and pull all the flesh out (and for some reason I always seem to wind up gashing myself on one or more of the spiny bits of the damn things) before chopping it coarsely, a brief flambée with whisky, and then mixed with a stiff bechamel flavoured with mustard, curry, white wine, and shallots.

At which point I could just spoon the mixture into those poor lost cocottes, top it with grated cheese and parsley, and put them into the oven to bubble and brown. Problem solved, I guess.

And just as you think everything's started to go right, something else pops up on the horizon: I went round to the neighbours this afternoon as Emilie's old HP is on its last legs so she went out and bought herself a laptop and of course her old files needed to be transferred over and printer drivers installed and a Wifi connection established and on top of that the new machine is under Windows 8 running TIFKAM (The Interface Formerly Known As Metro, if you're not familiar with that particular acronym). Which is not, in my admittedly limited experience (the past two hours) especially intuitive. But maybe I'm just coming at it with too much baggage, can't really expect them to replicate the Windows 3.11 look'n'feel.

I must admit that if (a big if, admittedly) you pay attention to the little introductory video that plays whilst Windows is busy installing itself it's not so difficult to pick up on the idea that by putting the mousie into one corner of the screen and waiting patiently for the system to realise that this has happened you will, eventually, get a menu that lets you get back to the familiar old Windows desktop, albeit one without the program launch bar.

And quite frankly, which frikkin genius had the idea of putting the shut-down options under "Parameters", which you can only get to by putting the mousie-thing right down at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen?

One that was having a particularly bad day, in my opinion. Also, from the same pop-up menu, the "Peripherals" options seems notably pointless, as - at least on her machine - the only option it displayed was "You cannot send anything from the desktop". Which seems a pointless remark to make. Especially if that was not, in any case, your intention.

I mean, it would seem obvious to me that if you were the sort of person that clicked on a menu item labelled "Peripherals", you would reasonably expect to at least see a list of the devices connected to your computer, maybe - and that would be really nice - a list of available Wifi connections (with actually useful options available should you click on one) and other good stuff, but no. I guess the fabled Microsoft Usability Lab has not been working overtime recently.

Whatever, to thank me she gave me a slab of fresh foie gras which is just crying out to be cut into thick slices and very quickly fried on both sides before being dusted with fleur de sel and anointed with a bit of balsamic vinegar as it sits next to a green salad: sadly, Margo would rather eat stewed rats' buttocks rather than that, so it's going to be a private pleasure. Which I rather think I shall enjoy, enormously. Mind how you go, now.